LEADERS FOR ONGOING DISCIPLESHIP –
ROLE AS A WORLD CHRISTIAN
- Equipping Co-workers
Moment in the Life of a Disciple (9)
The greatest thing that ever happened
in your life was when you met Jesus Christ. You had heard so much
about His reputation you were initially ambivalent about meeting Him
in person. He seemed so much larger than life. The transformation
occurred when He called you to follow Him and you took the plunge.
From that day forward you were enrolled in a life-long “school
of discipleship”, learning how to do the work to which He was
calling you. He taught you how to live God’s way. He coached
you in a life of prayer (His entire life seemed motivated by prayer).
He instilled values and integrity based on God’s character,
rather than religious traditions alone. The priests carped and
criticised, but could not find any evidence of sin in His life. He
mentored the life of faith in God and showed you how to trust Him for
the right outcomes in tough situations. He explained how to
interpret God’s word, not the way the Pharisees and lawyers
used it, but by the laws and principles of the Author. Now you
approach the Bible from a new standpoint and know how to apply it in
your day-to-day circumstances, making Christianity practicable. He
demonstrated God’s love, pulling the team together, teaching
you the importance of forgiveness, tolerance, kindness and going out
of your way to be instruments of His kindness in a loveless world.
Facing a barrage of criticism from the legal and theological
establishments, He showed you how to respond to detractors in God’s
way. He taught you about God’s Kingdom, so that each situation
felt like a training ground that had purpose. He didn’t let
any opportunity pass, but explained the principles of the King.
Jesus gave you authority to perform miracles and the power of the
Spirit to serve others. He taught you how to hear the voice of God;
on occasions you hear that voice, loud and clear; at other times it
is just a whisper, but unmistakably God speaking. He selflessly
cared for those who hounded Him to the cross. He stressed the
importance of caring for new disciples. He promised that the Holy
Spirit would come into your life; the same Holy Spirit who had
descended on Him would be with you, in you, giving you power to
continue His work. Finally, He showed by example how to get out of
the sanctuary and take God’s life into the heart of the global
marketplace. “Go into all the world.” Having done all
that, He got the group together one last time, told you to do exactly
what He had done, with others, said good-bye and returned to heaven.
equipped His disciples
chose and trained disciples from the very beginning of His ministry.
He used every opportunity to teach them God’s ways. The Great
Commission to disciple the nations involved continuing the work He
had already initiated.
the rear wall of the dining hall at the Dominican convent of Santa
Maria delle Grazie in Italy is a painting of the Last Supper executed
by Leonardo da Vinci from 1495-1498. It is one of the world’s
most appreciated (and restored) masterpieces. I have a Greek
Orthodox icon depicting the same event that I acquired from the
Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus (founded in 1092 by the Byzantine emperor
Alexios I Komnenos). Both paintings show Jesus instituting the Last
Supper, or Eucharist, the simple meal that symbolized His work on the
cross. The scene is illustrative of Jesus’ teaching style.
His very first encounters, with the first group of disciples, Jesus
did not stop instructing them, by a combination of teaching and
example. Individually and corporately He showed them how to:
a life of spontaneous prayer as the primary strategy in serving God
a godly life, because character is everything
faith in God (not just faith in faith, as many do)
the Bible and apply it to their circumstances
vessels of God’s love
one another, instead of using others to achieve selfish ends
a solid Christian community based on right attitudes and
to opponents with forgiveness and love
the sick and cast out demons
life according to Kingdom principles
God’s voice for themselves
for new Christians
the presence of the Holy Spirit
for Him in the global marketplace
much, much more.
did Jesus do it? One thing is sure; when he said “Learn from
me (Matthew 11:29) He wasn’t talking about memorizing a set of
academic facts derived from an arcane textbook, but modelling a
holistic “faith works” lifestyle.
does the New Testament teach us about equipping co-workers to be
effective Christians? What lessons can we adopt? They all boil down
to a few simple principles.
co-workers cope with life’s difficulties
the eve of His betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus drew aside the
disciple Simon Peter and warned him of difficult times ahead. Peter
was headstrong and self-assured. The cross would rattle him. In the
midst of his bravado Jesus warned:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked
to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in
prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you
have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your
brothers." (Luke 22:31, 32)
knew that Peter’s faith would be tested to the limit. His
confidence would be shaken. His cockiness would barely survive the
cross. “Sober up”, Jesus was saying, “you will
nearly be derailed by what is ahead. But when you come back to me
you will be strong enough to help others cope with stresses and
fractured relationships and hopes and manage their problems in a
I recently read the following on an
Interserve postcard (Interserve is a “network
of Christians from all over the world who, using their professional
skills, work together to serve people of Asia and the Arab world -
getting alongside them in tackling material, physical, mental and
“I met a man coming back from
the place I was going to. He advised me to go no further. He told
me of the dangers and difficulties I would face if I persevered. I
thanked him for his advice, and ignored it. Later on in my travels I
suffered the troubled he had warned me of. I regretted nothing.”
disciples involves helping them keep their eye on the ball when times
get tough (as they will) and not to give up (as others around them
surely will), because “(God) who has promised is faithful”
them grow in the faith
my sheep” (John 21:15-19)
the hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter denied Him three
times. His boasts that he would “go anywhere, pay any price,
surmount any obstacle” to support Jesus, proved hollow and he
wilted in the face of the threat of suffering. But Jesus was
forgiving. With the grace of God, Peter was brought back to a
position of leadership and equipped to develop younger Christians.
you feel as though you haven’t been as effective as you would
like. You can only give what you have. Let the Holy Spirit help you
grow and teach you, so that you can draw on that to serve, encourage
and instruct others.
relationship with Timothy is a good example of one disciple equipping
another. By way of background, Paul first met Timothy in Lystra
situated in modern Turkey) during his second missionary journey.
Timothy had come from a godly family. Paul subsequently made a
deliberate decision to invest his life in equipping him (cf Acts
16:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:2). As they travelled together, teaching and
preaching, Timothy was able to draw on the skills and leadership of
Paul to hone his own God-given ministry. When Paul was obliged by
circumstances to leave Berea, he left Silas (a key travelling
companion) behind to build the Christian work in Macedonia (Acts
17:14). Later on, Paul called Timothy “our
co-worker for God and our brother in proclaiming the Good News of
Thessalonians 3:2). Timothy worked hard ministering to the Christian
community in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3). Paul’s letters
to Timothy (there are two in the New Testament; they form part of his
collection of so-called “pastoral epistles”) are filled
with practical advice about Christian service.
spent part of his life in jail, including with Paul (Colossians 1:1;
Philippians 1:1 and Philemon 1). The Apostle writes of him, “as
a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the
gospel” (Philippians 2:22). It all started because Paul was
prepared to spent time with him, equipping Him in the work of
discipleship. It paid big dividends.
you have been a Christian for a while, it is time to start investing
in other believers (Hebrews 5:11-14). You may feel self-conscious
about discipling. We all feel we lack time, training and authority
to do everything we wish, but the model is a Biblical one. Let’s
grab every opportunity to invest in the lives of fellow-disciples.
them recognise God’s Master Plan for their lives
disciples had gifts and abilities, but they had to be shaped and
anointed by God before they could be effective. In every church
there are gifted Christian men and women with years of experience and
the call of God on their lives, who will never fulfil His greater
purposes. They sit there, week after week, year after year,
stagnant, bored or indifferent, largely ineffectual, spiritually
barren and frustrated. Many of them desperately want to serve God,
but don’t know how to do so or where to start. The structures
around them that represent “church” are rigid, unyielding
and monopolized; doors are closed. They end up feeling they have
nothing of value to contribute, or that, if they do, they will be
ignored or shunned. Some of them have been in a series of churches,
asking the same questions, looking for the same answers; their
current ecclesiastical address is but a step along a pilgrim path
that involves lots of dry wells and fruitless locations.
Christian, in every culture, has something of value to contribute to
the world Christian movement, to the glory of God; something that has
eternal value and will outlast them. Some are like the woman who
gave the last two coins she had and was praised by Jesus (Luke
21:1-4), or Joseph who gave his new tomb for the burial of Jesus
(Luke 23:50-53). Others are like the women who provided for Jesus
and his disciples throughout their ministry. We are all different.
Our faith walk is not contingent on what happens to others, but how
we respond to the voice of Jesus calling us to “follow”
(cf John 21:20-21).
Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside them, a relationship with
Father God, a God-shaped born-again heart and the supernatural
capacity to speak to the Eternal and hear His voice and message for
their lives and their world. That is awesome!
God to help you draw out people who can become effective Christians
in their respective marketplaces. You can do that by sharing with
them how to understanding God’s Word, how to make prayer a
language of relationship, how to listen to His voice; how to operate
with God’s team (there is one Master but many team members;
many parts, but the Body is one); and how to move from passivity to
them understanding His specific call
co-workers in the work of God includes teaching them how to read
circumstances according to the purpose of God for their individual
lives. There is no room for “Lone Rangers”. Some
Christians are very jealous about “their” ministries. On
one level, it is understandable that leadership protects those
entrusted to their care and maintain responsibility from error (read
the story of Paul in Galatians 2:11-20). But the church belongs to
Jesus. There is no room for pride or super-heroes.
gave gifts to enable everyone to carry out some work of ministry (or
service), for the good of all. Let’s look at a few practical
examples from the menu.
as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,
so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and
each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body
in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the
others. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things
well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy,
speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If
your gift is that of serving
others, serve them
well. If you are a teacher,
do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage
others, do it! If
you have money,
share it generously. If God has given you leadership
ability, take the
responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing
kindness to others,
do it gladly.” (Romans 12:4-8)
the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles,
and the pastors
Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and
build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity
in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and
full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds
about what we believe because someone has told us something different
or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound
like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming
more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body,
the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together
perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other
parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of
love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)
there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy
Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of
service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving.
are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who
does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each
of us as a means of helping the entire church.
To one person
the Spirit gives the ability
to give wise advice;
to another he gives the gift of special
The Spirit gives special faith
to another, and to someone else he gives the power
to heal the sick.
He gives one person the
power to perform miracles,
and to another the
ability to prophesy.
He gives someone else the ability to know
whether it is really the Spirit of God or another spirit that is
Still another person is given the ability
to speak in unknown languages,
and another is given the ability
to interpret what is being said.
It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He
alone decides which gift each person should have. (1 Corinthians
Now all of
you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and
necessary part of it.
is a list of some of the members that God has placed in the body of
Christ: first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help
those who can get
others to work together,
those who speak
in unknown languages.
Is everyone an apostle? Of course not. Is everyone a prophet? No.
Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles?
Does everyone have the gift of healing? Of course not. Does God
give all of us the ability to speak in unknown languages? Can
everyone interpret unknown languages? No! And in any event, you
the most helpful gifts.”
(1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
There is enough
for every Christian to have plenty to do until Jesus comes.
5. Teach them
teaching, to develop their knowledge and understanding, as well as
capacity to use their gifts appropriately, for the right outcomes.
[We all need to maintain teachable attitudes if we wish to grow and
A lot of
contemporary Christian teaching is mono-cultural, inward looking and
organization-centric. What we need is a vision for equipping others
to do the work of discipleship, without the cults that grow up around
individuals (1 Corinthians 3). Let me explain why, from my days in
I lived in Lima,
Peru during a time of rapid church growth across Latin America
(catalogued by C Peter Wagner in Look
Out! The Pentecostals Are Coming, Creation
That decade was an exciting time to be involved with the Christian
community in the Andean Pact region. Churches were springing up
everywhere; it was a veritable “baby boom”.
Congregations frequently became too large for their premises and
needed to break down into manageable sizes. These units were often
led by people with little formal Bible training. Some were Sunday
school teachers until asked to pastor new congregations – they
were one step ahead of everyone else. Others were youth leaders, not
long in the Christian faith. A desperate need existed to train
environment, expanding Christian communities were vulnerable to false
teaching. Sects such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses
got among new Christians and drew away unsuspecting believers who
were hungry for leadership and spiritual growth, but didn’t
know the difference. What emerged from this need was a range of
practical new training options.
much of the Christian world, the paradigm of training revolves around
classes, Western teaching methods and professional qualifications.
After all, it is argued, who wants to have heart surgery by someone
who has only read a high school biology book and thinks he knows, in
general terms, where the heart is located? Alternatively, only a
fool would entrust his or her financial affairs to someone who barely
knows mathematics but has a state-of-the-art calculator. I used to
believe that only full-time status as a formally trained pastor or
evangelist constituted valid Christian ministry. I now see that this
paradigm effectively rules 90% of Christians out of considering God’s
calling on their lives.
reminded of a conversation I had with a group of Bible College
students some years before I undertook my own theological studies:
“Jesus had a Bible College made up of twelve students; you
should follow the example of the first disciples and go to seminary’;
it’s what He requires”. This little piece of sophistry
veiled the fact that Jesus’ college was out in the marketplace,
where people were born, worked and died; it was not limited to the
classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud formal
qualifications; understanding the complexity of Biblical truth will
keep the Christian community from descending into chaos and error.
However, the work of Christian ministry is entrusted to all
Christians, so there needs to be a broader understanding of the menu
of training and service options available.
“Haggai Foundation” and other equipping ministries are
Christian living in the marketplace; assisting believers who want to
know how to share their faith with people with whom they interact
every day; and equipping Christian leaders with teaching about
contemporary issues. When this collaborative approach happens,
growth is coordinated and kept on the foundation. In the words of
the New Testament:
are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's
people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief
cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises
to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being
built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his
Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22 New Living Translation)
This passage is
one of my favourites. We are the Body of Christ, a 21st
Century “House of God” the Holy Spirit is building on the
foundation of Jesus Christ. When we get together the presence of the
Holy Spirit is with us – every time. We are like “bricks”;
designed to live in dynamic relationship with “other bricks”.
The love and power of God are the mortar that glues us together.
we would be like “foreigners and aliens” to one another.
When we come together to celebrate in Jesus’ name we are one.
When we plant new churches or build sanctuaries to worship the Lord
together we do so as tangible statements about the presence of God
and unity of His people in a world filled with uncertainties.
Together we are challenged and equipped to go out into the community
and touch peoples’ lives with His love and power. Every church
building, every Christian community and individual believer
should shine like a beacon, a light in the world to dispel the
darkness and lead others to the cross and the new life that are ours
When growth slides off the foundation
the resultant edifice is like the great Metropolitan Cathedral in
Mexico City, which I once visited. Soft
clay subsoil beneath the city and the removal of water from the soil
over recent centuries has caused many of the buildings in central
Mexico City to crack and subside, including the Cathedral (the
largest Catholic Church in Latin America). Only substantial
investments in restorative work have prevented the building from
collapsing. Good foundations are critical for the structure. In the
Christian community such foundations begin with solid teaching (2
have a part to play in helping men and women become effective
servants of God and achieve results that will endure for eternity.
hold of reliable, Biblical material and use it, together with the
relationships you have with the Holy Spirit and people, to do so.
Use your God-given skills, your background and discernment honed
through serving Jesus to see them released to grow the work of God in
the world. Teach them how to pray and touch Him. Show them how to
hear from the Holy Spirit and be bold in serving Him. Then they will
be able to do likewise and the work will multiply and continue. The
Family of God will expand and mature exponentially as everyone does
their God-given work.
final word goes to the Apostle Paul, in his second letter to Timothy:
have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many
reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people
who are able to pass them on to others. (2 Timothy 2:2)